Whats yours is mine, whats mine is mine : Protecting image rights

In a postprint world, who “owns” still images? And will anyone ever figure out a better business model than lifting content and getting away with it?

So says Adage’s Simon Dumenco in his SEO headline friendly article Exclusive! First Pics of Adorable Montauk Monster Quintuplets!

The article questions how photographers and owners of images will be protected from copyright theft when the organisations that pay them die.

Dumenco makes a good point. Many bloggers consider the use of pictures as part of fair use, a myth I looked at recently.   And despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to protect the investment they make in exclusive/celebrity pictures the blogasphere re-publishes with impunity.

If you’re a regular reader of blogs, consider the fact that the vast majority of images you see on them are not funded by the blogs but are, um, borrowed from the mainstream media.

Community protection

But I’m not quite sure what alternative Dumenco is adovcating or who he is more annoyed at and in that sense I think his premise that the mainstream media supply blog images is flawed. I think that even if the minority of images on blogs come from the mainstream media now, it won’t be long before community sites like Flickr overtake them. Why? Because community sites and the implementation of creative commons is a better bet for photographers protecting their content.

Dumenco illustrates his point by referencing the Olympics

…with the Olympics in full swing, it occurs to me that, for the first time in modern Olympic history, a critical mass (surely millions) of consumers will take in iconic images from the event not from media that pay for the images but from media

I would edit that slightly to

…with the Olympics in full swing, it occurs to me that, for the first time in modern Olympic history, a critical mass (surely millions) of consumers will take iconic images from the event and the media take these images and not pay for them

Protecting rights

To take Dumensco’s main point,  protection that is the key here. But we need to ask who we are protecting.

The current rules if copyright protect the organisation who owns it rather than the people who create it. Worse still those large media organisations will take UGC from the web and use it with impunity – do as we say not as we do.

The rules do need to change to protect those who take the pictures but there needs to be more recognition that not all the people who take the iconic images we see in the media are taken by pros.

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